Bridging the Gap: Crisis Training Connects Law Enforcement and Mental Health Experts | Indiana News

Approaching a woman with a large bruise on her cheekbone, Detective Troy Pesavento displayed patience and concern for her safety as he tried to determine the best way to help her.

The woman was visibly confused and alone at the bus stop, and did not give clear answers to her questions.

But the veteran Terre Haute police force was kind, patient, and implemented the skills he learned through training the Crisis Response Team for law enforcement officers.

“There is absolutely no reason for a person to be treated badly,” Pesavento told fellow officers during the role play activity at Gibault Children’s Services.

The protest in front of more than a dozen officers from the Terre Haute Police Department, Indiana State Police and Seelyville Police was organized by the local CIT committee to bridge the gap between police response and mental health care.

Pesavento first presented a ‘traditional’ old-school police response that involved an officer abruptly questioning the distressed woman, threatening to arrest her and causing more stress and harm to her sanity.

The woman in distress – Gilbault’s therapist Annette McCammon – portrayed behavior often observed by officers called to check on a person in crisis.

Pesavento then “responded” using de-escalation training. He kindly asked the woman if she needed help, gave her name, and asked her to share what had happened to him.

When the woman revealed her information, Pesavento was able to determine what assistance, if any, the woman needed. He also silently considered the possibility of requesting identification or an immediate detention order if the woman showed signs of mental illness, appeared dangerous or disabled, or might need immediate hospitalization or treatment.

The role play ended calmly with the woman agreeing to be assessed by doctors for her injury and transported for possible treatment.

“Your target should be the nicest person who has ever arrested someone, if it is about that,” Pesavento told the other officers. “Why should you be mad at her?” But you see it all the time. People are losing their temper.

This week’s training was the conclusion of a five-day training that began in November, but was put on hold due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The CIT program is independently organized by a national network of local and state organizations aimed at building strong relationships between law enforcement, mental health agencies and the local NAMI, or National Association of Mental Illness.

Jennifer Todd said the local steering committee has been working diligently to put together an agent training program. The alliance becomes the basis for the development and implementation of safer and proactive methods to resolve explosive crisis situations.

CIT provides training and education to law enforcement officers to help them manage crisis events when, as first responders, encounter people experiencing behavioral health crises due to mental illness. or concurrent substance use disorders. This allows the person in crisis to be redirected, if necessary, away from the criminal justice system and to emergency behavioral health facilities.

Among the training participants were several new THPD agents. Chief Shawn Keen said the training is valuable for all officers in the department.

“Even with our recent partnerships looking to transfer some of these calls to mental health care providers, we are still the first responders for most of these mental health calls,” Keen said. “With the volume of mental health calls that we handle, it is essential that we prepare our officers to be successful in these circumstances. To be successful, they must have a good understanding of mental illness and how to respond appropriately to people in crisis. This is what I think the CIT is doing for our agency, and this is why we have mandated all new agents [it] during their first year.

ISP Troopers Andrew Mattern, Daniel VanDuyn and Athan Lamson also participated in the training.

All of the young soldiers said they believed the CIT would help them be better soldiers and allow them to better recognize people facing a mental health crisis.

FAI sergeant. Matt Ames agreed after attending the training.

“This will allow us to see what special programs and resources are available in the Terre Haute and Wabash Valley region, and by having those resources available we can help get appropriate care for people with mental health issues. mental health and addictions so they can become productive citizens, ”Ames said.

“With this training, it shows us that we need to go further than just making an arrest. We need to look for mental health or alcohol and drug issues behind their behavior, ”he said.

The benefits of CIT include increased officer safety and diversion, reduction in unnecessary arrests or use of force, avoidance of costs to the criminal justice system, professionalism and community trust.

The CIT committee is made up of representatives from NAMI, Mental Health America, Terre Haute Regional Hospital, Indiana State University, THPD, Gibault Inc., Hamilton Center and Harsha Behavioral Center who work together to provide the week-long training.

For more information on training, go online to the NAMI website at

Lisa Trigg can be reached at 812-231-4254 or Follow her on Twitter at TribStarLisa.

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